Stop it Dave. No, really, stop it. Stop!

A final word for a chap called Dave. Plus some reassuring news for the people of a certain ward in t

Dear Marina

wha g’wan? DC here. Check it. You’re just the kind of bird I want in my party. You’re not old. You don’t wear twinsets and pearls but you do remind older colleagues of a young feisty Maggie. Let’s face it you’re wasted on old man Ming’s posse! Come on be a Green Con like me! Cross the floor and sex us up, you gorgeous filly.

Yours with the utmost respec’, Dave.

P.S. Word!

You turn if you want to: on Iraq, on ID cards, raising standards in education and the rest. But this lady is not for turning.

Sorry Dave – Trident hugger - I’d rather have my nipples crushed in a mangle.

Given your media friendly claims of a U-turn on traditional nasty Tory values, and your apparent repentance at constantly propping up the Labour vote, how about coming over to us. We’re waiting for you here

But please, don’t bring your councillors with you. It’s just too ghastly to contemplate.

Dear Marina

I had a phone call the other day from a lady asking me to vote Tory. Obviously I told her I was voting for you. I mean, how many men my age get to vote for a rising political star with lovely eyes and great baps to boot?

She advised me you were being parachuted into a safe seat. Newhaven she said, owing to local support for your anti-incinerator campaign.

Notwithstanding my concern at you taking up sky diving, I’m gutted you could even contemplate abandoning your community.

We love you Marina

George, East Saltdean near Brighton.
PS: Thank you for sorting my recycling!

George. Thank you for your getting in touch. Rest assured sir, with my record of action and promise of more I WILL stand for re-election in my community of East Saltdean and Telscombe on May 3rd.

This scurrilous rumour appears to be a dirty trick aimed at destroying my hard earned personal vote – and the well deserved local LibDem vote. We’re a strong team.

George, we’re fighting for our political lives against a bunch of no mark Cons. Every vote counts on 3rd May. All offers of help and pledges for the fighting fund to Vote Pepper

The revolution is on George
M
Xxx
PS: Need a postal vote or a lift to the polling station?

Dear Marina

Firstly my apologies. You were right. Grabbing your bottom like that was no way to behave since you were meeting me in your capacity as Mayor. Thank you for dealing with my local issue with such manners and grace. I deserved a face slap.

To the point. The Tories have just been round trying to press gang me to stand in the locals.

I told them, Marina, I said there’s no way I’d stand against you. I mean who wants to work that hard? And for what? Just to get hassled by old ladies smelling of wee, moaning about the state of the pavements whenever I pop out to the local shop for 20 Marlborough and a packet of king sized Rizlas. Why don’t they just drive like normal people?

Anyway. They said you weren’t standing here. I’m appalled. It’s not because I grabbed your bum is it?

Name and address supplied

Thank you for getting in touch. I WILL stand for re-election on 3rd May in East Saltdean and Telscombe. To request a postal vote, donate money, or pledge support here

I neither smoke Marlborough nor experience similar encounters when using my local shops for all my supplies (bar the vegetables - my home is the local organic veg box drop off for East Saltdean and Telscombe).

I do however accept that the pavements in our ward are an atrocious mess. I know this because all sorts of people have told me. And I listen. I’ve twisted my ankle, too, while out delivering Focus leaflets.

But crazy pavements, like pot-holed roads and the Newhaven incinerator are the responsibility of East Sussex County Council. Controlled by the Tories, of course.

If you want my advice about standing dwell on this: it’s a two horse race on May 3rd. Only the Liberal Democrats can beat the Tories. You might win by one vote. Don’t risk it.

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
GARY WATERS
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In defence of expertise: it’s time to take the heart out of “passionate” politics

What we need is cool logic.

We are living through a bonfire of the experts. During the EU referendum campaign, Michael Gove explained that people had had enough of them. A few weeks later, his fellow Tory MPs took him at his word and chose a relative ingénue to run against Theresa May.

After declaring for Andrea Leadsom in the Tory leadership race, Michael Howard was asked whether it might be a problem that she had never held a position higher than junior minister. Howard, whose long career includes stints as home secretary and opposition leader, demurred: “I don’t think experience is hugely important.”

Even in this jaw-dropping season, that comment caused significant mandibular dislocation. I thought: the next Tory leader will become prime minister at a time of national crisis, faced with some of the UK’s most complex problems since the Second World War. If experience doesn’t matter now, it never does. What does that imply about the job?

Leadsom’s supporters contended that her 25 years in the City were just as valuable as years spent at Westminster. Let’s leave aside the disputed question of whether Leadsom was ever a senior decision-maker (rather than a glorified marketing manager) and ask if success in one field makes it more likely that a person will succeed in another.

Consider Ben Carson, who, despite never having held elected office, contested the Republican presidential nomination. He declared that Obamacare was the worst thing to happen to the United States since slavery and that Hitler may have been stopped if the German public had been armed. Yet Carson is not stupid. He is an admired neurosurgeon who pioneered a method of separating conjoined twins.

Carson is a lesson in the first rule of expertise: it does not transfer from one field to another. This is why, outside their domain, the most brilliant people can be complete dolts. Nevertheless, we – and they – often assume otherwise. People are all too ready to believe that successful generals or entrepreneurs will be good at governing, even though, more often than not, they turn out to be painfully inept.

The psychologist Ellen Langer had her subjects play a betting game. Cards were drawn at random and the players had to bet on whose card was higher. Each played against a well-dressed, self-assured “dapper” and a shabby, awkward “schnook”. The participants knew that it was a game of chance but they took more risks against the schnook. High confidence in one area (“I’m more socially adept than the schnook”) irrationally spilled over into another (“I’ll draw better cards”).

The experiment points us to another reason why we make poor judgements about competence. We place too much faith in social cues – in what we can see. As voters, we assume that because someone is good at giving a speech or taking part in a debate, they will be good at governing. But public performance is an unreliable indicator of how they would cope with running meetings, reading policy briefs and taking decisions in private. Call it the Boris principle.

This overrating of the visible extends beyond politics. Decades of evidence show that the job interview is a poor predictor of how someone will do in the job. Organisations make better decisions when they rely on objective data such as qualifications, track record and test scores. Interviewers are often swayed by qualities that can be performed.

MPs on the Commons education select committee rejected Amanda Spielman, the government’s choice for the next head of Ofsted, after her appearance before them. The committee didn’t reject her because she was deficient in accomplishments or her grasp of education policy, but because she lacked “passion”. Her answers to the committee were thoughtful and evidence-based. Yet a Labour MP told her she wasn’t sufficiently “evangelical” about school improvement; a Tory asked her to stop using the word “data” so often. Apparently, there is little point in being an expert if you cannot emote.

England’s football team is perennially berated in the media for not being passionate enough. But what it lacks is technique. Shortly before Wales played England in the European Championship, the Welsh striker Gareth Bale suggested that England’s players lacked passion. He knew exactly what he was doing. In the tunnel before kick-off, TV cameras caught the English goalkeeper Joe Hart in a vessel-busting frenzy. On the pitch, Hart allowed Bale to score from an absurdly long range because he was incapable of thinking straight.

I wish there were less passion in politics and more cool logic; less evangelism and more data. Unthinking passion has brought the Labour Party to its knees and threatens to do the same to the country. I find myself hungering for dry analyses and thirsting for bloodless lucidity. I admire, more than ever, those with obscure technical knowledge and the hard-won skills needed to make progress, rather than merely promise it.

Political leadership is not brain surgery but it is a rich and deep domain. An effective political leader needs to be an expert in policy, diplomacy, legislative process and how not to screw up an interview. That is why it’s so hard to do the job well when you have spent most of your time in boardrooms or at anti-war rallies.

If democratic politicians display contempt for expertise, including their own, they can hardly complain if those they aspire to govern decide to do without the lot of them. 

Ian Leslie is a writer, author of CURIOUS: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It, and writer/presenter of BBC R4's Before They Were Famous.

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt